Christ is risen! Truly, He is risen! His everlasting mercy endures forever.
As the world stumbles in darkness, cowering in the shadow of death, and awaiting its inevitable summon, Christ the Saviour liberated all humanity when He conquered death by His death and trampled upon the tomb of death that lurks to snatch every soul. “He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and broke their chains in pieces”. (Psalm 107:14)
Plagues and adversities temporarily alarm us, but when we remember whom we joyfully call, “Our Father,” we are emboldened, confident in His love and mercy. “For He has broken the gates of bronze, and cut the bars of iron in two”. (Psalm 107:16)
The world is in a state of distress, confusion, and anguish, but we are children of the one and only true God, and have not forgotten His goodness and His loving kindness. Be concerned about the rapid infection of sin in the world. “He turns rivers into a wilderness, and the water springs into dry ground; a fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of those who dwell in it. (Psalm 107:33, 34)
Love the sinner, but hate the sin. The world is confounded, terrified, and vexed; yet, many insist on preaching and disseminating tolerance and acceptance of sin. Thus the world brings condemnation upon itself. “They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses”. (Psalm 107:27, 28) Sin found no limit, but a clinging virus set rules and boundaries.
As the world pursues glimpses of hope for cures and vaccines for maladies and disorders, the Lord Jesus Christ gave us His body and blood to heal the repulsive disease of sin. Perhaps even the believers took His Holy Mysteries for granted. “Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing”. (Psalm 107:22)
We must be perpetually thankful for His mercies and His goodness for which none deserve. We hear and participate in the Thanksgiving Prayer in every liturgical service and in all prayers, but many just recite the words. Real gratitude exudes from the heart, permeates the mind, and pierces the soul. We thank Him because He loves us. We thank Him because He is risen and has redeemed us from our treacherous enemies, whether they be in the form of pestilence, poverty, or peril.
We long for Him. We long for the aroma of incense rising with prayers. We long for the beauty of His churches adorned with white satin sashes and icons depicting the Lord Jesus Christ and His angels and saints. We long for the sound of the Divine Liturgies, doxologies, hymnologies, instruments of cymbals and triangles, and church bells ringing inviting the worshippers to enter the courts of the Lord for prayer. We long for the touch of His house, the books, the candles, and the veil of His sanctuary. We long for the taste of His precious body and blood purging sins from our souls. “For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness”. (Psalm 107:9)
He kept all His promises and will never abandon us. He keeps His eyes upon us with lovingkindness, even until now. He has not forsaken us because He loves us. He searches diligently and relentlessly for each one of us that we may see Him and find life and healing in Him.
“Fools, because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, were afflicted”. (Psalm 107:17)
As the world demanded social distancing, dignitaries, rulers, celebrities, schools, businesses, organisations, and ordinary people of all ages, colour, race, religion, and ethnicity came to a screeching halt. Thus, we surprised ourselves in discovering that we have the capability to stop any indulgence if and when we desire. As the world watched door after door close and we became captives within our own dwellings, some may have finally found Him, alone waiting in the inner room of our hearts. “Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord”. (Psalm 107:43)
He preferred the manger that we may rejoice with the little things in life that matter most. Not only did He descend into the world, but even into a river, that His humility may cover our shame when we are baptised into Him and emerge out of the font as a new, untainted creation, clothed in Christ. He died upon the cross that His suffering may heal our weary and restless souls. He rose from the tomb to give us abundance of life. Thus, we rejoice in every condition and in whatever condition. Suffering is temporary, but life is eternal with Christ the Saviour of the world. The Lord Jesus Christ has declared victory over every hardship, suffering, and death. Therefore, rejoice with a thankful heart, for Christ is indeed risen! “Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!”. (Psalm 107:31)
God bless you.
His Grace Bishop Youssef is Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States (www.suscopts.org).
19 April 2020